Tis the season of lane closures: Shoppers beware! Tuesday, Nov 24 2015 

The holidays.  Days of family, reflection, thanksgiving, …

Or “daze” of market-place insanity, crowded places, and stress-out?

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The shopper’s bane: More customers than checkouts adding needless stress to the human condition, especially during holidays supposedly consecrated for devotion and thanksgiving.

I vote for family, reflection, and thanksgiving, although culture’s hell-bound, commercial bent certainly challenges the realistic hope for that outcome.  This time of year, a routine trip to the supermarket for milk and bread can turn into an epic ordeal in crowded checkout lines made up of many rude, demanding shoppers whose rudeness only worsens when check-out lines lengthen.

So my pre-New Year’s resolution is to avoid  places of commerce as best I can in this season so I can keep my spiritual perspective in these days.  Therefore, I resolve as follows: As for trips to Laffy, never on a Friday afternoon or Saturday until mid-January.  To the mall, never until after January.  As for the interstate highways, no trips on Fridays and no trips the day before or the day after one of the holidays.

Home will be the base, the safest and best retreat, until  holiday madness runs its tempestuous course sometime next year.

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Holidaze on Hill Street: The Pullings of Eunice, Home for the Season Thursday, Nov 19 2015 

(Written as an assignment demo for English IV at St. Edmund Catholic School)

Family holiday traditions at our family place are so much like holiday traditions anywhere in America or Louisiana or Acadiana, yet they’re so much not like another family’s holiday traditions. Like every household, our practices, rituals, and holiday habits are the blended traditions and celebrations that have come down for generations through both sides of mine and my wife’s families, all of them distinctly American, yet by now after almost 40 years of family, uniquely Pulling. The best way to understand the unique cultural contributions that make up our holiday style is to know a little bit about the family history.UL Fleur de lis

All-American Roots

Before we can get to the mélange of cultures and traditions, my family’s holidays are founded on historical American patterns.  Thanksgiving, for example, did not come from Cajuns or Spaniards or any other sub-ethnic or cultural group—It’s a uniquely and historically American holiday, first declared by President Abraham Lincoln.  It’s connected to the historical recollection of an original Thanksgiving in Colonial times when Native Americans and colonists threw a big feast bash at the end of harvest season with wild turkey, corn, pumpkins, and other traditional harvest-time dishes on the menu.  From that all-American basis, my Cajun wife always bakes a turkey and always bakes pumpkin pies.  Those are not traditional Cajun dishes, but Cajuns by now are as American as they are Cajun.

Gumbo

Exotic fare for the common man: chicken and sausage gumbo.

Similarly, for Christmas, Santa Clause visits the Pulling household, dressed in the red and white trimmed garb that’s recognizable on any Santa at any mall in any American cities during the holiday season, coast to coast and sea to shining sea.  And, equally American at Christmas for our household is the distinctly-American commercial emphasis of shopping and spending.  Nowhere else in the world do people celebrate Christmas so freely by swiping credit cards and staking out Black Friday vigils and gift-buying sprees.

 Ethnic Strains

While the foundations are all-American, though, my family, like most other American families, is a cultural blend, each of which contributes to the way we observe the holidays.  My maternal grandmother was Spanish, a product of the Spanish-speaking Islenos who settled in St. Bernard Parish in the 1700’s and 1800’s.  Those industrious Spaniards fished, hunted, and trapped in the marshes and bays of lower St. Bernard.  Because of the bounty of seafood in their staple diet, many dishes we eat for the holidays have the flavor of St. Bernard.  Corn bread dressing, for instance, becomes oyster  dressing.  And any gumbo from St. Bernard is a seafood gumbo because of the bounty of crabs, shrimp, and oysters that came from the marshes and bays.

My wife’s maternal generational side, on the other hand, is country prairie Cajun.  Like the Islenos from my Daddy’s side, the Cajuns diet comes from the land that nurtured those subsistence and tenant farmers in generations past: la viande boucanee (smoked meat), wild game, boudin, and other distinctly Cajun delicacies that show up on the holiday tables from November through New Year’s.  And our prairie Cajun holiday gumbo, as often as not, is chicken and sausage gumbo rather than seafood gumbo, because the prairie Cajuns did not have the bounteous seafood at their doorstep as did my Isleno forbears, but they did have hogs, sheep, cattle, and vegetable gardens.

Modern Conventions: Contributions from Child-Rearing in the 1980’s and 90’s

The ancestral traditions aren’t the only contributors to holidaze on Hill Street, of course.  My two kids were born in the 1980’s, so the movies and TV shows of their generation have become engrained in the seasonal rituals.  Home Alone, along with its myriad of sequels, and the Griswold clan’s comic exploits supplanted the classics of my childhood, such as A Christmas Carol and Miracle on 34th Street.  I don’t believe my kids would even recognize the titles of those silver screen relics, but every Christmas, no matter that they’re grown adults now, they search the TV listings this time of year to find the comedies they grew up with.  Year after year, over and over to the point that can recite entire passages of dialogue from the movies from memory, the kids hijack the TV programming schedule to view and review their oldies.  Those movies have become almost cliché to me, but I suppose they would look at my generation’s shows the same way.  And if they were writing this same piece a half of a generation from now, they would note the same kinds of holiday traditions evolution that makes up the stuff of an article like this.

In Conclusion . . .   

Yes, for every generation, holiday customs are the unique and evolutionary combination of practices, habits, and routines that trace their way through our lives like little rivulets of tradition flowing from ancestral springs.  And so the Pullings on Hill Street are connected to those ancestral springs both from the past and the present, allowing our former generations to fellowship with the present, even as the present shapes the future beyond our own generation.

And the end of it all: Happy Thanksgiving, and merry Christmas!

 

 

 

 

Surf n Turf Tuesday, Nov 17 2015 

Patio dwelling 2015.  Last weekend a culinary memory-maker: steak and shrimp!  We usually do one or the other.  This was the first time I remember doing both.

Get real, get it right, Louisiana: Edwards for Governor! Wednesday, Nov 11 2015 

I avoid blogging about politics.  So many fresh and uplifting topics beg for blog space.  But in this Louisiana gubernatorial election season, this state needs a fresh and uplifting change.  And that change ain’t Senator David Vitter, who in spite of his recent political feuds with the Clown Prince Bobby Jindal to make it appear that he’s different, looks more like the same old-same old right wing Republican buffonery we grew accustomed to with Jindal.

The right wing’s theme: Let’s cut, cut, cut, cut!   No matter that our State roads are unmaintained, filled with potholes.  That our colleges have shifted tuition increase burdens to students at the highest rate in the nation over the past 5 or 6 years.  That we have to wait in line for hours at DMV to renew our drivers’ licenses.  That our public school districts are dangling by financial threads while bizarre (publicly-funded) charter schools blossom like spring broadweeds  and vouchers suck funding from public institutions that were already un-funded.

No, I’m sick of it.  I was in Texas recently and drove through a high school campus.  Not to the campus, but through the campus, because its spacious layout spread over square city blocks out like a community college.  Buildings are dedicated to trades like Cosmetology.   We don’t have public school facilities like that in Louisiana.  Our ranting and raving Tea Party fools think that taxation is a dirty word!  So how do our un-funded high school campuses compare?  They don’t!  It’s embarrassing.

So I’m not going to vote for David Vitter.  I urge anyone who cares about education in Louisiana–education at any level, from kindergarten through college–to give John Bel Edwards the vote.  He was Jindal’s adversary in the legislature, and he’ll be education’s friend—-and Louisiana’s friend—-in the Governor’s Office.

What does Louisiana have to lose, compared to what we’ve lost in the past eight years, anyway?

John Bel Edwards for Governor!

John Bel Edwards for Governor!

Humble Rewards of the Profession: A Grandparent in English I Friday, Nov 6 2015 

I tell my younger teaching colleagues several times a week how hazardous teaching becomes once a teacher becomes a grandparent.  That doting permissiveness that enables our own grandchildren to manipulate us becomes a factor in the IMG_0188classroom where the much younger students, especially those with charming, childlike smiles and affectatious manners, sense there’s a grandparent in the room.  They have grandparents, too, so they know how the game is played!

I don’t mind, though.  They’re pleasant to hang out with, they laugh at some of my jokes, and best of all, they do respect my need to teach them things they need to know.  From day to day, they work as hard at having fun as they do at learning.

So everybody wins!  We laugh, we learn, we grow—-even the grandparent teacher, who knows from these humble rewards that God’s put him in the right place at the right time.

November Hump Daze and the Football Drought Wednesday, Nov 4 2015 

Hump days in October and November are not like hump days in other times of the year, when Wednesday night is Wednesday night—-just another mid-week evening that anticipiates the soon-to-arrive end of the week.

But in football season, after Monday Night football, fans must endure two whole nights sans football until Thursday night when the NFL and college both televise matches.  So Wednesday night is the second night of the work-week’s blackout.  Sure, NFL Network and other sports channels show re-runs of games from last weekend, but watching those games to appease the appetite for football is kind of like washing your hands with gloves on–The mechanical act is executed, but the effect is completely void of desired result.

So one more hump day night until life’s seasonal football meaning returns.  May we find grace amidst tedious mid-week hours to persist this one last night!

Saturday is the crown jewel of the football week, with coverage morning to night. Wednesday night is the season of mid-week depression!

Saturday is the crown jewel of the football week, with coverage morning to night. Wednesday night is the season of mid-week depression!